Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ray Berry added to my '55-style customs

I've reached card #250 in my on-going series of custom cards in the format of Topps' 1955 All-American college football. Raymond Berry is actually my 150th card in the "update" effort, since I picked up my numbering from where Topps left off in 1955.

I didn't really have Berry on my to-do list for the set, but when I found a great posed action photo of him on the internet, I decided to give it a go.

Actually, if you had asked me a week ago where Berry played college ball, I couldn't have told you. He played a year of junior college football at Schreiner College in Kerrville, Texas, then transferred to Southern Methodist.

Since the Mustangs were a run-oriented offense, Berry didn't get many touches, but as a senior he averaged 15.5 yards per catch.

Back when the NFL allowed teams to draft future selections, the Baltimore Colts picked Berry in the 20th round (#253 overall) of the 1954 draft. He elected to use his final year of eligibility at SMU and reported to the Colts for 1955. He played his entire NFL career with Baltimore, retiring after the 1967 season. 

Berry was not fast, but he had the ability to develop patterns and run them to perfection. And he was sure handed. One internet site says he dropped only passes in his 13-year career with the Colts; another says he fumbled only once.

When Johnny Unitas took over as Baltimore's quarterback in 1957, he teamed with Berry as one of the most effective passer-receiver combinations in NFL history. 

In Berry's three All-Pro seasons (1958-60) he led the NFL in receiving yards twice, in pass catches three times, in receiving touchdowns twice and yards per game twice.

He was instrumental in the Colts overtime win over the Giants in the 1958 NFL Championship Game, setting records with 12 receptions and 178 yards, plus a touchdown. He receptions in clutch situations during Baltimore's drives to tie the score, and eventually win the game played out as an unprecedented TV audience watched "The Greatest Game Ever Played."

This is my second Raymond Berry custom card. Several years ago I made a 1955 Bowman-style card, "predating" his actual Topps rookie card by two years. Who knows, someday I may do a 1956-style.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Gardner's 007 is James Bond "lite"

In the mid- late 1960s, I was a big fan of James Bond, both the series of spy novels and the movies starring Sean Connery as 007.

During that era I read all of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, and have since reread most of them. I saw all of the Connery-as-Bond movies when they were new, and have watched each of them several times since. I can watch each of them every couple of years without being bored.

Goldfinger is my favorite. Try as I might, I can't recreate the way Connery pronounces the name "Pussy."

As much as I enjoy the seven Bond movies in which Connery starred, my interest in other films in which Bond is played by Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, George Lazenby, Daniel Craig, etc., ranges from mild to non-existent. I'm sure I watched at least a few of the half-dozen Bond movies with Moore, but have not seen any of the more recent Bond movies. For my money, if it isn't Sean Connery, it isn't James Bond.

What brings this subject to the fore is my recent reading of a 1983 book Icebreaker by John Gardner. As you can seen from the dust jacket of the volume I bought for fifty cents at a rummage sale, the book is billed as, "Ian Fleming's Master Spy James Bond in . . . "

My time would have been better spent rereading one of Fleming's originals. Gardner's vision is strictly James Bond Lite. I see by an internet search that Gardner has written more than a dozen novels starring James Bond (that's more than Fleming did) but I'm not going to be in a hurry to read them.

To be fair, some of his other works in the genre may have come closer to the Ian Fleming books that I enjoyed so well, but at my age I have to be more discerning about how I spend my time. Frankly, if I didn't have a near manic compulsion to finish any book that I start, I'd have given up on Icebreaker after the first hour. I suppose it's a good enough action spy book, but the lead character shouldn't be called James Bond.

Perhaps instead of reading another John Gardner Bond book, I'll try to find a showing of the first James Bond movie, the 1954 production of Casino Royale starring Barry Nelson.

As much as I enjoyed the James Bond books and movies of the 1960s, I never collected the 1965 Philadelphia Gum James Bond bubblegum cards. By then I wasn't buying any sports or non-sports cards. I did, however, find the pictured card from that set in a box of miscellaneous cards I bought in the 1980s. I saved it because it is for me the iconic portrait of 007.

 Being as much of a James Bond fan as I was back then, I had to check out the series of parody novels written by Sol Weinstein. The books were a take off of the Fleming books and hero. Such titles as Matzohball and Loxfinger comedically chronicled the adventures of the Mossad spy Israel Bonds, Agent Oy-Oy-7.

I'm sure a lot of the content was over my head at the age of 14-15. I was after all, a Midwestern goy who, to the best of my knowledge, didn't even know any Jews. I'm guessing unless you were Jewish, or very familiar with Jewish stereotypes of that era, you couldn't get the whole worth of these books.

A couple of years ago I poked around on eBay and Amazon to buy copies of the Weinstein books to reread. I was shocked to find that the originals were now highly collectible, and could cost up to $50.

Fortunately, the books have recently been reprinted and can be found at all the usual internet outlets for $10 or less. I've ordered a couple of them and look forward to seeing how they've aged.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Chet Laabs was box score anomaly

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

It required a ruling by the International League president to prevent an unusual baseball occurrence from becoming even more of an oddity.

As it was, 36-year-old veteran outfielder Chet Laabs was in the lineup for a losing team while he was a member of the winning team.

The situation began during a Sunday double-header in Toronto on May 7, 1950. The Sunday DH was the first ever in Toronto, and was attended by 19,500, including IL President Frank Shaughnessy.

Jersey City beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 9-5 in the opener. JC also won the second game, by a score of 4-1, when a 6 p.m. curfew forced a halt after five innings. Shaughnessy, however, nullified the result, calling the second game “farcical” and “a dreadful way to treat the fans.”

When the Little Giants had amassed the 4-1 lead, the Jersey City players deliberately tried to get put out in the fourth and fifth innings so that the game would become official when the curfew was invoked. Toronto, meanwhile employed stalling tactics to offset the speedup and force a “do-over.”

Shaughnessy ruled that the game would be replayed as a seven-inning contest the next time Jersey City visited Toronto. He fined the JC manager $50 and the Toronto skipper $25. A week later, the IL decided it would treat such games as suspended, and they would be resumed from the point at which they were initially called.

On May 7, Laabs had been the right fielder for the Leafs. He had been 0-for-3 at the plate when the game was halted. Batting only .250 with just a single home run by mid-May, Laabs announced his retirement.

When Jersey City went into a swoon and dropped from first to sixth place after Monte Irvin, its principal power hitter, was recalled to New York, Laabs was coaxed out of retirement in the first week of June, and signed as a free agent.

Jersey City won 10 of its next 15 games and climbed back into third place.

The suspended game of May 7 was resumed when Jersey City visited Toronto on June 27. Complying with the new rules, the game was picked up from the top of the fourth inning, before all the hurry-up/stall shenanigans had taken place on May 7. To prevent Laabs from appearing in the official box score as a member of both teams, Shaughnessy ruled that Laabs had to sit out the contest.

So he was on the bench of the winning team when Jersey City beat his old club 4-1 in the conclusion of the suspended game.

In the regular game of June 27, Laabs was in right field for the Little Giants and went 2-for-4 as Jersey City won over Toronto 8-5.

By June 28, Laabs was batting .290 and his 13 home runs were near the top of the league.

Laabs finished the 1950 season tied for the IL home run crown with 30. His 87 RBIs were sixth-best. He batted .282. He retired for good at the end of the year.

Laabs had a solid 11-year major league career with the Tigers (1937-39), Browns (1939-46) and A’s (1947).  His only really mainstream baseball card was in the 1940 Play Ball set, though he also appeared in 1950 with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Canadian World Wide Gum issue.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

1990 George Bush reprint created

One of the most sought-after baseball cards of the 1990s was a card that Topps created for then-President George H.W. Bush.

In the style of its regular 1990 set, the card pictures the senior Bush in a photo taken when he was captain of the Yale baseball team circa 1948.

At the time of its issue, it was widely reported that only 100 of the cards were printed, and that all were presented to the president for his personal use.

Within a very short time, however, reports began to surface that a few of the cards had been found in Topps packs sold to the general public. 

In recent years, a handful of the Bush cards have surfaced in hobby auctions, many of them certified by the major third-party grading companies. Prices realized have generally exceeded $5,000, with sales of over $8,000 recorded.

Whether these cards seen in the market came from the presidential allocation, from random pack picks or from the backdoor at Topps' printing plant remains unknown, but it is evident the card is in great demand.

With that in mind, I decided to try my hand at creating a reprint of this famed card.

While the finished product is certainly a close approximation of the originals, the process really wasn't all that satisfying. 

The various custom cards that I have been making for nearly a decade require a good deal of research, computer graphics work and the exacting process of printing and cutting. Except for the latter, all that was required to make a decent reprint was a minor change to the card's back to replace a copyright line with a reprint notice.

I've actually got a short list of great rarities of the card world that I plan on creating in reprint form sometime in the future, but based on the relative lack of pride of creation, the reprints will probably remain on the back burner for a while.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Wight set new "ohfer" record in 1950

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

In 1950 Chicago White Sox pitcher Bill Wight set a new major league record for batting futility in a single season. He was 0-for-61 at the plate. Wight took that record from Karl Drews, who had been 0-for-46 the previous year. (Drews was featured in my blog on May 2, 2012.)

Wight's hitless string had not continued from the 1949 season. He had batted a respectable (for a pitcher) .220 that season, including two hits in his last game of the year. He extended his hitless streak through his first half-dozen at bats in 1951, by which time he had been traded to the Boston Red Sox. 

Scattered among his 61 futile at-bats in 1950, Wight had drawn four walks and made 10 sacrifice bunts, driving in two runs.

Wight held the record for at-bats in a season without a hit until 1962, when Bob Buhl of the Braves and Cubs went 0-for-70. I believe that still stands as a single-season record.

For his 12-year major league career, Wight accumulated a .115 lifetime batting average.

From the time he made his baseball card debut in 1950 Bowman (he wasn't on any cards while with the Yankees in 1946-47 or his first two years with the White Sox), Wight seemed to appear with a different team of each year's baseball cards. 

His 1951 (Bowman) and 1952 (Bowman and Topps) cards show him with the Red Sox. In 1953 he's a Detroit Tiger on his Bowman card, and in the regional Glendale hot dog set. Wight wasn't on any major card issues in 1954 (when he was with San Diego in the Pacific Coast League) or 1955, though he did appear in the 1955 Cleveland Indians Golden Stamp book.

In 1956-57 Topps, Wight is pictured with the Baltimore Orioles. In 1958 he's shown with the Cincinnati Reds. He ended his big league days with the Cardinals in '58. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

1950 Browns couldn't avenge 29-4 loss

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.
Jerry Reed once sang, "When you're hot, you're hot; when you're not, you're not."

In mid-1950, the perennial doormat St. Louis Browns were "not" and the Boston Red Sox "were."

On June 7, the Brownies, in seventh place in the American League, were in Boston for a midweek series against the third-place Red Sox. The home team handed the visitors their ass in a 20-4 rout; it was the Browns' 13th straight loss at Fenway Park.

But that wasn't the worst drubbing the Browns took in the series.

The next day Boston scored a modern-record 29 runs in beating St. Louis, who managed just four tallies. 

Browns manager Zack Taylor was roundly criticized for not bringing in a "first-line pitcher" to stop the bleeding in either game. He responded that he hadn't wanted to mess up his rotation. "Why send good pitching after bad?", he was quoted.  

Cliff Fannin started for the Browns and was knocked out after giving up eight runs, all earned, and walking four. He took the loss. Clarence "Cuddles" Marshall came on in the third and gave up nine runs and five walks. Thirty-two-year-old rookie Sid Schacht pitched 3.2 innings, giving up 12 runs (nine earned) and two walks. Tom Ferrick closed the game for the Browns, allowing  just one hit to the final three batters. The Browns ace pitcher, Ned Garver, also got into the game, pinch-hitting for Fannin in the top of the third inning. He struck out and for whatever reason, Taylor put Marshall on the mound in the bottom half of the frame.

A week after the massacre, both Ferrick and Schacht were gone from the Browns. In an eight-player deal with the Yankees, St. Louis traded Ferrick and optioned Schacht to New York's farm club in Kansas City for the remainder of the season. The Yankees also gave the perpetually cash-poor Browns $50,000.

While each member of the Red Sox had at least one base hit in the game, the top Boston producers were Ted Williams, of course, who had a pair of home runs and two walks with fiv e RBIs. Bobby Doerr hit three home runs and a single, driving in eight runs. Walt Dropo had a pair of homers, two singles and a walk, for seven RBIs.

Red Sox manager Joe McCarthy was criticized for not benching his regulars; he didn't use a single pinch-hitter, defensive substitute or relief pitcher in either game.

Apologists pointed out that if Red Sox benchwarmers had been put into the game, they might have been so anxious to prove themselves that the scores may have become even more lopsided. An unnamed editorial-page writer for The Sporting News waxed eloquently, " . . . it would have been a more pleasant experience if McCarthy had made some small effort to temper the wind on the shorn lamb. It is conceivable that replacements would have been even more vigorous in their lust for hits and would have sent the score and the hit total to even greater heights. But replacements might have been made, just the same."

The writer suggested that veteran Red Sox second baseman Bobby Doerr and third baseman Johnny Pesky, who had been nursing a bad back, might have been rested. 

Then the writer, toeing the company line that in that era seemed to be to bash the Browns at every opportunity, put these words in the mouth of anonymous fans, "When is the American League going to do something about this eyesore on its map, this insult to the patrons of St. Louis, and all the seven other cities."

Two of the umpires in the 29-4 game also had something to say. Eddie Rommel, who had been in pro ball since 1918, called the affair a "disgrace." He commented that he had never before seen a pitcher (Chuck Stobbs) walked four times (Stobbs also had two hits in the game).

Umpire Joe Paparella said, "Those Red Sox batters were swinging from their heels; yet what did the Browns pitchers try to do? They kept trying to throw the ball past them instead of using their safe stuff."

Taylor later vented about the situation. "Managing a ball club, particularly a young team like mine, is no joke. Mind you, I'm not asking any soft touches or favors from anyone. But I'd expect the other fellow to treat me like I'd treat them if I were in an identical spot. In all my years in baseball I've never played a club that refused to put in the subs when the score got too one-sided.

"Don't worry, the Browns haven't forgotten," Taylor continued. "That unmerciful beating, totally uncalled for, may cost the Red Sox the pennant. For I'll guarantee one thing--they'll never cakewalk through my club again. The Red Sox are going to see how funny it is whenever they meet us from now on. My kids are fighting mad."

Taylor made good on his vow in the final game of the series. Behind Dick Starr, the Browns beat Boston 12-7.

After that, however, Taylor's prediction of the Browns becoming avenging angels and foiling the Red Sox pennant hopes fell flat. St. Louis lost the next 12 games in which they faced Boston. The Browns didn't break the skein until Sept. 14, when Dick Starr again came through, beating Boston 6-3. The teams split their final two games of the season. 

The Red Sox didn't win the pennant in 1950, but the Browns had nothing to do with it. Boston never got closer than two games behind the Yankees.

Whether or not the June 7-8 humiliations he piled on the Browns were a factor, McCarthy was replaced as Red Sox manager on June 20. The team said it was for health reasons, but McCarthy didn't publicly support that contention.

How hot were the Red Sox when the Browns ran into them in early June? In the seven-game span between June 2-8, Boston won six. They scored 104 runs in that period, batting .406 as a team, with 18 home runs and 101 RBIs. 

Three Red Sox players batted .500 or higher during that run. Al Zarilla batted .586 with seven doubles and 11 RBI. Ted Williams hit .536 with five home runs and 16 RBIs. Walt Dropo, A.L. Rookie of the Year, was 18-for-36 with four home runs and 19 RBIs.

The 28 hits that Boston had on June 8 were not a record; the Giants had 31 in a game in 1901. The 56 runs scored by the Red Sox June 7-9 did set a record for three consecutive games. The Red Sox 25-run margin of victory on June 8 remained the modern record until the Texas Rangers beat the Baltimore Orioles 30-3 on Aug. 22, 2007. The all-time major league record for margin of victory was the 36-7 beatdown that Cap Anson's Chicago Colts put on Louisville on June 29, 1897.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Second Staubach college custom created -- ERROR PHOTO CORRECTED

UPDATE: Feb. 14, 2013 
This is a first for me . . . at least as far as I know.

I have been reliably informed by a fellow custom card guy, Steve at, that the photo on my 1955-style Staubach card is not Roger Staubach but is actually Craig Morton.

When I created my custom, as explained below, I had used a transparency identified as Staubach by Henry Yee, a respected expert and purveyor of sports and other historic photos. 

I have now created a "corrected" version of my Staubach custom. 

Original blog entry of Dec. 29, 2012
In the past 8-9 years I've created more than 145 college football custom cards in the style of one of my childhood favorites, the 1955 Topps All-American set.

You might be wondering why I'm just now getting around the making a Roger Staubach card.

I'd have made one long ago except for the fact that I chose Staubach for my first non-1955AA football custom. The first time I saw the Oct. 18, 1963, Time magazine cover with an artwork portrait of the Navy quarterback, I knew it would be a great basis for a 1952 Bowman-style custom card. I used the 1952 Bowman George Halas card for the background of my custom.

With a Staubach card under my belt, I never felt a pressing need to create another one in the 1955 design. That is, until I saw a really nice portrait photo of Staubach in the recent Henry Yee auction series on eBay. The image was on a 4" x 5" Kodachrome transparency. While I wasn't the successful bidder (it sold for a very reasonable $26.88), I was able to lift the image from the auction listing.

After doing some color correcting, I was able to drop it into my 1955 All-American template. Because of the narrow orientation of the picture, I had to use a vertical format for my custom.

I always liked the Navy logo that Topps used on two of its original All-Americans, so that was also a factor in my decision to create a new Staubach card.

Because I had done such a great job writing the back for my 1952 Bowman custom, it was only a matter of judicious editing to produce the back copy for my '55.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

But when he did play . . .

Joe DiMaggio had an interesting Opening Day record while with the New York Yankees.

DiMaggio was on the Yankees roster from 1936-1951. He only played on Opening Day in seven of those 16 years, but when he did play, he was magnificent.

Here's the Yankee Clipper's for all Opening Day games . . . 

1936 Ankle injury kept him out of action until May 3
1937 Tonsillectomy kept him on the bench until April 30
1938 Salary dispute kept him out of action until April 30
1939 vs. Boston Red Sox, 1-for-2 with two walks
1940 Right knee injury kept him benched until May 7
1941 @ Washington Senators, 2-for-4 with a triple and an RBI
1942 @ Washington Senators, 1-for-5  with an RBI
1943 Military service
1944 Military service
1945 Military service
1946 @ Philadelphia A's, 1-for-4, home run, two RBIs
1947 Left heel operation sidelined him until April 19
1948 @ Washington Senators 2-for-4 with a double and a walk
1949 Right heel spur benched him until June 28
1950 @ Boston Red Sox, 3-for-6 with a double, triple and RBI
1951 vs. Boston Red Sox, 1-for-4 with an RBI.

When he did play on Opening Day, DiMaggio had a .379 batting average, 54 points higher than his career mark.

Monday, February 11, 2013

'50 Phillies birthday anomaly

While the math is way over my head, I learned years ago that the odds of two people sharing a birthday are about 50% for a group of 23, about 95% for a group of 50 and over 99% for a group of 60 persons.

There's tons of related math stuff on the internet, but I could not easily find the odds of three persons sharing the same birthday.

However, it was certainly a statistical oddity that three of the 25 players on the 1950 N.L. Champion Philadelphia Phillies shared the same natal anniversary.

Andy Seminick was born Sept. 12, 1920;  Bubba Church on Sept. 12, 1924 and, Stan Lopata on Sept. 12, 1925.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Ejection was milestone for Reese, ump

Baseball game ejections were more common in the 1950s than they are today.

One particular ejection in 1950 was a milestone for both the player and the umpire involved.

In the fifth inning of the May 4 game at Wrigley Field, Brooklyn Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese was called out taking a third strike.

When Reese flipped his bat high in the air to protest the call, home plate umpire Babe Pinelli threw him out of the game. The Dodgers were ahead of the Cubs 9-2 at the time, and Reese had already singled and doubled and turned three double plays, so the ejection had no real effect on the game's outcome.

The game was Reese's 1,000th as a major league player . . . and it was the first time that he had ever been thrown out of a big league game.

The incident was also a first for Pinelli. In his 16th season as a major league umpire, it was the first time that Pinelli had ever ejected a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

Gil Hodges, In his book The Game of Baseball, recounted a story of how, while dressing for a game, he and several other Dodgers debated which umpires were most likely and least likely to eject a player from a game. Hodges recalled that Reese expressed the opinion that Pinelli was the umpire least likely to throw a player out. That was May 4, 1950.

Reese only waited 101 more games before garnering his second ejection. At Philadelphia on Sept. 7, home plate umpire Artie Gore threw Reese out for arguing a called third strike in the eighth inning. The Dodgers won the game 3-2.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

New custom: 1954 Bowman style Aaron "rookie"

Sometimes a photo that I find on the internet so strongly suggests a custom card that I put all of my current projects on the back burner and act on that impulse.

Such was the case with a posed batting photo of a young Hank Aaron. When I saw it I envisioned how it would look as the basis for a 1954 Bowman-style Aaron "rookie card." Aaron, of course, only appeared with Bowman in 1955, a year after his Topps' debut.

I had to do more than the usual tinkering with the black-and-white photo to get the look I wanted. For those of us who grew up with '54 Bowmans in our childhood collections, or who came to appreciate the set in more recent times, the issue has a very distinct look. 

Primarily, the pictures are not photographs, but rather paintings done by commercial artists hired by Bowman to convert black-and-white photos into color artwork. Such a talent is way beyond me, but fortunately, I can  usually colorize black-and-white photos with the help of Photoshop Elements.

To more closely replicate the look of a painting, I moderately posterize the newly colored image, and sometimes add a bit of what the graphics program calls "noise" to the picture. 

Those familiar with original 1954 Bowmans, recognize that the nearly 60-year-old cards often acquire a patina that adds an ivory cast to the photo, warming slightly any coolness of color tones that may have been present at original printing.

A closer inspection of "real" '54 Bowmans shows that the card artists often muted the background to make the player image stand out more prominently. I tried to incorporate that technique with my Aaron card.

Spic and Span
Getting the "right" facsimile autograph on my card proved somewhat of a challenge. The somewhat narrow box that Bowman used to showcase the players' signatures can be confining for those autographs that have prominent ascenders or descenders. Aaron's early autographs often presented one or both of those features. Such characteristics can result in a reproduced signature that is either quite small, or on which the tails of one or more letters are cut off.

Additionally, Henry signed with a bold hand, a look that was not the norm on '54 Bowman cards. Initially I tried the signature from Aaron's 1954-56 Spic and Span postcard issue, which featured the most unanimity in letter height. That sig, however, was too "thick" and wasn't consistent with most of the original Bowmans.

I then worked up a design that utilized the signature from Aaron's early Topps cards. It, too, was somewhat bolder than I wanted, and additionally required the tail of the "y" to disappear into the bottom border.

Finally, I settled on the facsimile signature that was used on Aaron's cards in the 1954-55 Johnson Cookies regional sets. Besides being of a suitable thickness and height, that autograph includes his middle initial (L., for Louis) and thus gives my card a look distinctive than that with which most collectors are familiar.

Johnston Cookies
I should note, that many of the machinations that I went through while finalizing the front of my custom card were based on suggestions from collectors who frequent a baseball card forum where I posted the beta versions of my card.

The back of my card was comparatively easy. Most of the stats were available on That site, however, often does not offer minor league figures for runs scored, RBIs or total bases. Fortunately, Topps did that legwork for players in its 1957 set, which saved me a lot of digging on the internet.

Did you know, by the way, that for the first two Topps cards of Aaron had his birthdate wrong? They gave it as Feb. 10, rather than correct Feb. 5. 

Hank Aaron just celebrated his 79th birthday, and while the completion of my card was a few days late, I think it is a fitting tribute to the greatest player ever to wear the Milwaukee Braves uniform.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Russell Wilson worthy of a "double-header" custom

My most recent 1955 Topps All-American style custom card is a double-header; it is only the second time I've created two different '55-style cards for the same player. My first was Troy Aikman, for whom I created cards as a UCLA Bruin and an Oklahoma State Sooner.

This time, I chose to do two cards of Russell Wilson. While I finished the card fronts a month or more ago, I had to wait until the NFL Rookie of the Year voting was announced Saturday night before I could complete my biographical write-up on the back. 

It's not surprising that Wilson didn't win the honor, but I'd held out hope. After all, he was a third-round draft pick, rather than a first-rounder, and he led his team deeper into the playoffs than the draft's No. 1 and No. 2 picks. As I showed you last time, I've done an RG3 card. I haven't yet been moved to do a card of Andrew Luck

Since photos of Wilson with both N.C. State and Wisconsin were readily available, and since two card backs are almost as easy to create as one, I decided to do ahead with separate fronts for each stage of his collegiate career.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My '55 All-American style custom card for RG3

I had to wait until the NFL individual player awards were announced Saturday night before I could finish a 1955 Topps All-American style custom card that I started about a month ago. I needed to know how Robert Griffin III finished in the Rookie of the Year balloting so that I could finish the write-up on my card's back.

Though RG3's rookie season ended on a potentially tragic note, he was one of the feel-good stories of the 2012 season. I enjoyed watching him play and once it looked like the Redskins were going into the post-season, I determined to create a '55-style custom card for my on-going "update" set. As you can see, I'm now on the verge of creating my 150th custom card in this format.

As was the case with all current college and NFL players, there is no shortage of great pictures on the internet. It's only a matter of choosing one that will fit my (usually) horizontal format.

I had completed the front design and posted it on one of the card forums that I haunt when an astute observer questioned my use of a comma between Griffin's surname and "III". I did some poking around and discovered to my surprise that many modern usage experts now note that such a comma is rapidly falling into disuse.

While retaining the comma might have been more period-correct for a 1955 card, I ultimately decided to drop it. I'm not sure why the comma in that context is becoming passe. Perhaps it's a nod to royalty titles; after all, it's Queen Elizabeth II, not Queen Elizabeth, II. 

Many of the same style mavens indicate that a common between a surname and "Jr." is also becoming optional. I think I'll hold off on dropping those for a while yet.

Next time, I'll share another new '55AA-style custom I've just finished -- actually, it's my second "double-header."